Ed Delahanty quickly moved from his first team, the Cleveland Shamrocks, up to a state league and then tri-state league, and soon he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. After a weaker year or two, his batting average climbed above .400, where it stayed for three years running. He hit like crazy and hustled and played strong defense, and soon was one of the sport's most in-demand players, dominating throughout the 1890s, both offensively and defensively. Ed soon parlayed his prominence into a big payday when he signed with the Washington Senators, a team in the new American league.
And then matters began to complicated for poor Delahanty. He signed a lucrative contract with a large signing bonus with the National League New York Giants, though it conflicted with the contract he signed with the Senators. In a rare accord, the National and the American leagues agreed to honor each other's contracts, and Ed was stuck in Washington with a bum ankle and a bad back, begging team management to reimburse the Giants for the bonus he'd blown on drinking, gambling and carousing. His behavior grew increasingly unpredictable; he was rumored to have flirted with suicide.
And then, on July 2, 1903, Ed Delahanty abandoned his team and his belongings in Detroit and, for reasons that aren't entirely clear, boarded a train for New York. A scourge on board, Delahanty harassed other passengers, doused himself in drink, broke glass and barreled around the train's narrow passageways, drunk and at times disoriented. Finally the conductor kicked him off the train. The story gets murky after that, but by all accounts he had some sort of scuffle with a night watchman on the International Railway bridge that connects Canada to New York, which ended with Ed plummeting or jumping into the Niagara River, far below. The river swept his body into the Falls. He didn't survive. At the time of his death, he was probably the most famous player in baseball.
But before all that, Delahanty hit 101 home runs, a feat almost unheard of in the deadball era, and it was not usual for him to produce a hit in every plate appearance during a game. On May 11, 1903, less than two months before Delahanty's untimely death, The Baltimore Sun ran an article under the headline "Queer Baseball Yarns," in which a reporter reminisced about a hot streak he had one fine afternoon in 1897, when he was still playing for the Phillies.
The Phillies were playing Chicago at West Side grounds. In his first at bat, Ed Delahanty knocked a home run over the left field bleachers, and then, the next time he was up, knocked another over the right field stands.
In his next at bat he produced a third home run, this one right to center. He "cantered clear around to home without trouble," according to the Sun. The crowd hollered and cheered.
Sure enough, he hit the ball, hard, and it soared into left, ricocheted off the clubhouse roof, and disappeared for an astounding fourth home run.
More than five years after the fact, The Sun declared this five-for-five streak as "the most remarkable thing that ever happened on a ball field, by common consent."